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8-year-old Girl on 4,200 Km Marathon Run
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An eight-year-old girl who is being spurred on by her father has partly completed a marathon run from Sanya in southern China's Hainan Province to Beijing, a distance of 4,200 kilometers, the Shanghai Morning Post reported.

She reached Guangzhou yesterday afternoon after a 15-day journey covering 1,000 kilometers.

Zhang Jianmin, the girl's father, has been criticized for forcing his daughter to endure intense physical training, which, according to a sports school director, threatens her future health.

Zhang's training routine for his daughter, Zhang Huimin, includes a 30- to 40-kilometer run each day from 3 AM to 7 AM. After school he has her to do more exercises.

He sees great potential in his daughter and hopes Zhang Huimin can compete in the 2016 Olympic Games.

"Although the heat wave in July and August is a challenge for Zhang Huimin, I believe she has huge potential in running and can continue," her father told the newspaper, adding that they mainly run at night when it is cooler.

Zhang Huimin is 125-centimeters tall and weighs 20.6 kilograms. She is expected to reach Beijing around August 28. The report said that her dad has set her schedule. He is also accompanying her on the journey.

She coughed severely after reaching Guangzhou, but her father has asked her to continue running until she reaches her goal. Zhang Huimin was scheduled to resume the journey this afternoon and her father hoped she could reach Langfang, a city in Hebei Province, on August 15 in order to attend an international marathon, the report said.

A director of a sports school in Hainan said that he had advised Zhang Jianmin to stop his daughter from her intense training because it would affect the girl's heart, nerves and hormones. The director said that because Zhang Huimin is still growing, these problems might not emerge for another two to three years.

Zhang Jianmin is a farmer who lives in a deserted pigsty in Hainan Province. According to the report he is also an avid sports fan who failed to reach his dream of becoming an athlete. He is now transferring those unfulfilled aspirations onto his daughter.

"If my daughter can't make headway in marathons before she turns 15, I will ask her to switch to tennis or taekwondo. I believe that she can finally realize my sports dream," the newspaper quoted the father as saying.

Zhang Jianmin signed a 20,000-yuan (US$2,645) contract with a sports shoe company on July 9. His daughter will be the company's image representative for one year, but Zhang Jianmin denied allegations that he took advantage of his daughter to make money, and stated they need money to finish the run, the report said.

The father admitted Zhang Huimin sometimes failed to concentrate on her schoolwork and that she received low marks. Additionally, he affirmed that five-hours of sleep at night and two hours in the afternoon were enough for his daughter.

(Shanghai Daily July 20, 2007)

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